Jackie Brannon: Head over heels for horses

NEW CUMBERLAND, Ohio – Jackie Brannon’s earliest memory of riding a horse left her on the ground, laughing, and her sister in tears.

It happened when she was toddler. Jackie and her sister, Michelle, were both riding Jennifer, a small Shetland pony, in their backyard outside their home in Sherrodsville, Ohio.

The horse was spooked and the sisters fell. Jackie hit the ground, laughing. Michelle rose to her feet in tears, clutching a broken arm.

Right then, Brannon’s enthusiasm for horses began.

Now the Brannon family’s home sits on two acres on a country road in Tuscarawas county, between Mineral City and New Cumberland. Down a beaten dirt path from their home, a red barn houses the family’s 16 Quarter Horses. Jackie owns six of the 16.

Still a horse lover. Almost 15 years after riding her first pony, Jackie, daughter of Todd and Cindy Brannon, still keeps her love of horses alive.

Brannon, 19, rolls out of bed at 6 a.m. every day to feed her horses before traveling to Dover where she works as a technician at the Valley View Animal Clinic, assisting veterinarians in animal care and surgeries.

If her brother Tyrone, 18, didn’t already do chores, she heads to the barns after work, too, to feed her horses and to perform a horse owner’s least favored task: cleaning the stalls.

When Brannon decided to take a horse project during her first year of 4-H with the Valley Equestrian 4-H club, her grandma found a girl who didn’t have time for her Paint horse and got it for Brannon.

Time to show. During her tenure in the Valley Equestrian 4-H club, Brannon has trained horses from when they were yearlings up to age 3. Each year she clipped their ears, trimmed their hair and rubbed a little bit of baby oil on their face for extra shine. Then she loaded them in a trailer and drove them to the Tuscarawas County Fair or down to Columbus to be shown in the state fair.

Brannon did not leave the fairs empty-handed. She has racked up many awards, all of them equine-related.

“I’d like to get a quilt made out of all my ribbons someday,” she said.

It would be a large quilt, too. How many ribbons exactly?

“Oh, geez,” Brannon said, “I don’t know.”

Lots of awards. She estimates nearly 100 ribbons rest in the box in her bedroom along with seven or eight trophies. This year, the 2001 Buckeye Career Center graduate won the district proficiency award in equine management in March and went on to win the state proficiency award last month. In October, she will be awarded the American Degree, the highest degree awarded to a FFA member.

Showing her horses is her favorite part of 4-H, Brannon said. Along with three FFA chapter awards, the DeKalb award and many others, Brannon competed against 50 other riders to win the Supreme Showmanship Award at the Tuscarawas County Fair in 2000. Last year, she won the English Pleasure Award, an award based on the judges’ score of the horse’s movement during its walk, trot and canter.

Favorite horse. In Brannon’s medium-sized red barn, a couple of cats and a kitten doze off on the hay bales that sit in front of the stall that houses Annie, a light brown Quarter Horse, and her colt. On the other side of the barn, Cash, a dark brown Quarter Horse, and Impressive Haje, Brannon’s favorite horse, chomp on some hay.

Brannon has shown Impressive Haje for seven years and developed an attachment to her cool temperament and cooperative behavior, she said.

“Anyone can ride her,” she said.

Brannon’s herd is a healthy bunch. The only health problems she has had is Impressive Haje’s low hormone level. Without medicine, the horse could abort her colt, which is due next year in March.

“We’ll have about five babies next year,” Brannon said.

The other horses graze in the pasture behind the barn, where Brannon often rides.

Less time to ride. Now that Brannon is finished with school and is working, she said finding time to ride is difficult. Growing older has pulled her away from showing her horses, too. At 19, last year was Brannon’s last time to ride before the judges at the county fair.

“I’m going to miss showing in 4-H,” she said.

Favorite memories. It’s easy to tell that by her perpetual passion for horses, Brannon’s memories of riding and showing will always be etched in her mind.

She will remember trotting around her grandpa’s 150-acre hay farm and clip-clopping down her father’s machete-blazed trails across the road from her home.

She will remember the day before she turned 15 when a spooked horse whacked her face with its halter. Blood streamed down her face and and it took 14 stitches to pull the wound closed.

She will remember when she was 9 and trying to get a bridle on a horse by herself.

“The horse wouldn’t take the bit in his mouth so I bit him,” Brannon said, laughing. “My mom always tells that story.”

The horse was unharmed and did take the bit in his mouth, she said.

Future plans. When she talks about her future, horses are in it. She plans to continue working at the Dover veterinary clinic and along with her mom and sister, she will continue to be an adviser for the Valley Equestrian 4-H club.

Where ever she ends up in the future, Brannon said she wants a barn and some land to ride her horses.

“My dream barn is a 10-stall barn where the stalls would be down the side and you would have a enough room to ride in the middle,” she said.

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